Clayton Oliver and Josh Gibcus. Pictures: AFL Photos

MELBOURNE has named Clayton Oliver for its match simulation against Richmond on Sunday despite the star midfielder only rejoining his teammates for pre-season training three weeks ago, while Tigers young gun Josh Gibcus will have his first serious hitout since the 2022 elimination final.

The action at Casey Fields on Sunday will be played across seven periods, with the number of players taking part up to the clubs involved. It means it's not clear how much Oliver will take part in the action, but it's likely the star midfielder will be on limited minutes given his interrupted summer.

After battling injuries and medical issues for most of last season and facing questions over his off-field behaviour during a tumultuous Trade Period, Oliver took extended leave from the club in December to focus on his personal wellbeing and only returned to training in the rehab group on January 31.

Gibcus hasn't been seen since his eye-catching debut season in 2022 when he played 18 games after being selected at pick No.9 in the 2021 AFL Draft.

The young Tiger's complex hamstring tendon injury required surgery early last year and eventually resulted in a trip to an internationally renowned sports medicine practice in Qatar during the off-season. 

Josh Gibcus handballs during the R15 match between Richmond and Geelong at the MCG on June 25, 2022. Picture: Getty Images/AFL Photos

Melbourne defender-turned-forward Harrison Petty, who missed the finals last year due to a Lisfranc injury, suffered a fresh setback this week with a toe injury keeping him out of the match sim, while winger Lachie Hunter will also miss due to a persistent calf issue.

Angus Brayshaw won't play as he continues to integrate back into full training following the concussion injury he sustained in the qualifying final last year, while Ben Brown (knee) Tom Fullarton (hamstring) and Jake Melksham (knee) will also miss due to injury. 

Angus Brayshaw at Melbourne training on September 12, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Taj Woewodin (concussion), Charlie Spargo (Achilles), Shane McAdam (calf), Daniel Turner (leg stress fracture) and Tom McDonald (calf) are other notable absentees from the squad.

Richmond will also be without a host of big names for the clash including skipper Toby Nankervis, former co-captain Dylan Grimes, midfield trio Dion Prestia, Dustin Martin, and Tim Taranto as well as forward Tom Lynch.

Tom Lynch at Richmond training on January 29, 2024. Picture: Richmond FC

Grimes (calf), Martin (managed) and Prestia (hamstring) are all expected to feature in the Tigers' AFL Community Series match against Collingwood on Tuesday, February 27, while Lynch (foot) has only just returned to the main group and isn't expected to play until round one after being ruled out of the Tigers' Opening Round clash against Gold Coast.

Nankervis is managing a sore foot but isn't considered in any doubt for Opening Round at this stage.

AFL-listed players Hugo Ralphsmith, Judson Clarke, Matthew Coulthard, Noah Cumberland, Oliver Hayes-Brown and Kaleb Smith have been named in Richmond's 'B' squad to play in the second half of the match.

Noah Cumberland during Richmond's match against Melbourne in R6, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

East Perth forward Mitch Schofield and New Zealander Mykelti Lefau will also get one final chance to impress for a spot on the rookie list in the latter stages of the practice match against the Demons. The pair joined the club when the pre-season supplemental selection period opened on November 27 and have completed the full program across the pre-season.

Sunday's match simulation will be broadcast live on Fox Footy, available on Kayo Sports and Foxtel.

Gates open at 9.30am with the match to start at 10am. Entry is free.

The eight other club-arranged match simulations will be played between February 21-24, with the format, including the length of quarters or periods and squad sizes, determined by the clubs involved.

Following the match sims, all 18 clubs will play official practice games in the AFL Community Series between February 27 and March 3.

Melbourne v Richmond at Casey Fields, 10am AEDT
(Seven-quarter match sim)


1. Steven May, 2. Jacob van Rooyen, 3. Christian Salem, 4. Judd McVee, 5. Christian Petracca, 6. Caleb Windsor, 7. Jack Viney, 8. Jake Lever, 11. Max Gawn, 13. Clayton Oliver, 14. Jack Billings, 15. Ed Langdon, 16. Bailey Laurie, 17. Jake Bowey, 19. Josh Schache, 20. Adam Tomlinson, 21. Matt Jefferson, 22. Blake Howes, 24. Trent Rivers, 26. Jed Adams, 27. Marty Hore, 28. Will Verrall, 30. Alex Neal-Bullen, 31. Bayley Fritsch, 32. Tom Sparrow, 36. Kysaiah Pickett, 37. Kade Chandler, 38. Oliver Sestan, 39. Koltyn Tholstrup, 41. Kynan Brown, 43. Kyah Farris-White

Notable absentees: Charlie Spargo, Angus Brayshaw, Lachie Hunter, Jake Melksham, Shane McAdam, Tom McDonald, Tom Fullarton, Harrison Petty, Ben Brown


1. Nick Vlastuin, 5. Jack Ross, 10. Maurice Rioli, 15. Jayden Short, 17. Daniel Rioli, 18. Josh Gibcus, 19. Mykelti Lefau, 20. Jacob Koschitzke, 21. Noah Balta, 22. Jacob Hopper, 24. Sam Naismith, 27. Thomson Dow, 28. Kane McAuliffe, 29. Shai Bolton, 30. Tom Brown, 31. Rhyan Mansell, 32. Samson Ryan, 33. Kamdyn McIntosh, 34. Jack Graham, 35. Nathan Broad, 36. James Trezise, 40. Tyler Sonsie, 41. Sam Banks, 44. Seth Campbell, 45. Tylar Young, 46. Ben Miller, 48. Steely Green, 50. Marlion Pickett

Notable absentees: Dylan Grimes, Dion Prestia, Dustin Martin, Liam Baker, Tim Taranto, Tom Lynch, Toby Nankervis